The Mets vs. BABIP: Where Does the Offense Go from Here?

Maggie Wiggin, Contributor

The Mets offense this season has been objectively terrible. It may be that a boost comes soon in the form of a roster shake-up, but in the meantime, what can we expect from the current players going forward?

By looking at batting average on balls in play (BABIP), as well as thinking about the types of batted balls, we can get some idea of what players are underperforming or overperforming.

Marlon Byrd 1 polaroidCurrently just a handful of Mets have BABIPs in 2013 close to their career number (over the course of a season, players will generally work towards their career BABIP, making it a good guideline for projections). David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Marlon Byrd are hitting about as well as to be expected and their peripheral stats like fly ball rates supports the prediction that all will continue to produce around these levels going forward.

A couple of players are in line for some regression, however. Justin Turner may be in line for the biggest regression — his current BABIP is nearly 60 points above him career BABIP. However, his hitting profile is not much different from how he’s hit previously. He hits a lot of ground balls, which are more likely to be converted into outs than line drives . Right now he’s getting lucky on where those are placed, but it’s not likely to last. Rick Ankiel will also likely continue to regress, as we’ve seen over the last couple of games.

On the other side of things, Lucas Duda is the Met most likely to see his batting average rise over the course of this season and in the last few days we’ve started to see this happen. Just a few days ago, his 2013 BABIP was .258, 40 points lower than his career BABIP. That difference was most likely driven primarily by poor luck, since the distribution of his hit types has been pretty close to what he’s done in the past, with just a few more fly balls and a few less line drives (not a big enough difference to explain the gap in BABIP). We saw some great defensive plays and positioning turn a potential Duda double into an out and plenty of warning-track fly outs. Over the weekend, though, his luck began to turn around and his BABIP has risen 25 points, driving a similar increase in his batting average.

John Buck may also be in line from some improvement over his recent cold streak, since his 2013 BABIP is just .226, compared to a career .278. However, he also underperformed in 2011 and 2012 compared to his career numbers, so it may be that his hitting has changed as he’s aged and he’s become more of an all-or-nothing type hitter.

Another player with a sizeable gap between 2013 and career BABIP is Ruben Tejada, largely due to changes in his hitting style. Later on, Andrew Wharton will have an in-depth post about the impact of this on Tejada’s overall struggles this season and how he can turn it around.

And then there’s Ike Davis, who may not be a Met soon after this is published… His 2013 BABIP is very low, just .208, nearly 80 points below his career. Based on that alone, it’s almost unbelievable that he wouldn’t improve. But so many things are unbelievable about Davis right now, so I can’t even bring myself to hazard a guess about his future.

One wild card with a big small sample size warning: Collin Cowgill. Over 52 PAs, his BABIP was a microscopic .167, compared to .307 for his (also small sample-sized) career. Historically, he’s hit many more line drives and many fewer fly balls (perhaps he got homer-happy after his grand slam). Hard to know just how predictive such a small sample is, but if I were desperately looking for an outfielder who might not be terrible, I’d start with Cowgill.